Candice Mendenhall of ICF International’s HR Organization, Culture and Forward Outlook

Candice Mendenhall_ICF International_EMExecutiveBiz: You mentioned there are things unique to individual firms. What is the culture like at ICF?

Candice Mendenhall: It is really a great honor to actually be working for a firm like ICF in this last chapter of my career. It is a firm where the senior executives firmly believe that it is their human assets that will make or break this organization. And so they have a great deal of heart and care for the decisions they make, even in rough times, like we recently experienced with the government shut-down.

This is a very collaborative environment, and it isn’t the kind of thing you put on the wall and say ‘we will be collaborative.’ It’s actually an intellectual curiosity about others’ points of view that drives ICF’s collaborative nature. We seek out points of view from a variety of places so we gain a much broader view that result in more effective decisions.

The organization is also led by individuals who have been with this company since the time that they got out of graduate school. There’s a wonderful, rich history and culture that has evolved and has withstood the test of time.  Our firm’s values are modeled from the top of the organization to the bottom. This is an organization that embraces change.  We have a joke around here where we say ICF stands for “it changes frequently”.  That makes for a very dynamic organization and has produced a history of providing great value for our stakeholders.

ICF is never a boring place. There’s just always something that’s coming down the pike that’s exciting.  That means that for our staff there are opportunities for continuous learning.

 

ExecutiveBiz: How is the HR organization at ICF structured?

Candice Mendenhall: I have a staff of 75. ICF right now is centralized in its HR function. I have all the traditional functions including compensation and benefits; HR technology and reporting; talent acquisition (recruiting) – ; career development and mobility, ; talent development; succession planning; organizational effectiveness;, and employee relations.

Our corporate functions like compensation and benefits, among others, act as centers of excellence.  We utilize HR Business Partners as the primary delivery arm of HR services.  These individuals are HR generalists, and they physically sit with the clients they serve, so they’re associated with the businesses that they serve.

 

ExecutiveBiz: What is your role in executive compensation?

Candice Mendenhall: If an organization is a publicly traded company, like ICF, executive compensation is extremely visible to both the shareholders, and certainly to the board. The board, and in particularly, our compensation committee, takes a very active interest in it, thus I am heavily involved..

Because we’re a publicly‑traded company, we have to be guided by what’s going to be acceptable to our shareholders, which drives board decisions. One of the things that I’m accountable for is to ensure that we have a standard philosophy around compensation that we can share with our various stakeholders. This philosophy then guides how we compensate our executives.

I’m responsible for helping the board select a peer group of companies upon which we benchmark our executives’ compensation and performance. Every publicly‑traded company selects a peer group. This supports the board’s ability to be able to submit to the shareholders that in fact, we’re paying reasonable salaries. We’re not overpaying. We’re not underpaying. We’re paying what we consider the market is for the performance that our executives produce.

Along with my CEO, I make recommendations to the Compensation Committee on the targeted compensation, in terms of base, short‑term incentives, and long‑term incentives. We really don’t offer our executives any other special perks. We’re very conservative on that side.

At the end of the year, based on the performance of the company, we make recommendations to our board on what should be awarded to our executives in terms of their short term and long term incentive payments. And we help the board establish the total targeted compensation for the coming year.

 

ExecutiveBiz: What are you excited about in that last chapter of your career at ICF?

Candice Mendenhall: Well, ICF right now is rebalancing its portfolio. Over the next five years we are targeting our mix of business to be 50 percent in the private or commercial sector and 50 percent in the public sector, which would include international, U.S. federal, state and local businesses. This strategic direction is exciting for all of our stakeholders.

Because my professional experience has been predominately in the private sector,  I am pleased that I’m going to be here to help ICF chart its path from a human capital perspective on how to maintain and grow very different businesses, while maintaining the values and culture of the organization.

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